As you correctly said, when lyrics fit, music hits you stronger…
Italy has become a little bit of a hotbead for emerging AOR and Melodic Rock bands in recent years. Another Italin song writer to emerge this year is Gianluca Firmo, the mastermind behind Room Experience who have just released their debut album on MelodicRock records. Pink Cream 69 front man David Readman provides the vocals and fellow Italians and respected song writers Pierpaolo Monti and Dave Barbieri are heavily involved in the production and recording. MR’s Woody was keen to learn more about this intriguing AOR project so he got in touch with Gianluca Firmo to get the lowdown on Room Experience!
The Room Experience lead singer is popular English vocalist David Readman. How did you hook up with David and get him to join the band?
To make a long story short, the three-words-answer is Alessandro Del Vecchio. The long version is this, David was on a very short list of singers that we (me, Pierpaolo and Davide) thought had the right skills to deliver a warm feeling on a complete track list of songs that sound quite different, I’m thinking of One Way Out and No Signs Of Summer or The Only Truth. You know, when I listen to awesome songs where everything is perfectly played, but I have a feeling that the singer’s voice is out of place or not delivering enough passion, to me is a total turn off. It turns a great song into a great technical exhibition, to me.
The problem was, as you correctly said, that he’s very popular while I’m a total newcomer. Alessandro Del Vecchio, though, had been already contacted by Pierpaolo, they are longtime friends, to take care of the final mix and master. By luck, Alessandro is also friends with David who is his band mate in Voodoo Circle, so he kindly agreed to get us in touch. David of course wanted to hear the songs before jumping on board, and when we got his positive response, we were on cloud nine.
Had you got all the songs written prior to David joining? How long have these songs been written or were they composed once David was onboard?
Yes, all the songs were written before David joined and over the course of many years. ‘Shock me’ is one of the oldest written almost 20 years ago; ‘No Signs Of Summer’ instead, was finished just a month before everything started. Anyway ‘Wounds of love’ which is only featured in the Special Edition was completely rewritten together with Pierpaolo and Davide. Also we re-wrote together the chorus of ‘One Way Out’ and ‘Siren’s Song’ again, only featured on the special edition; we added the coda of ‘Only Goodnight’, after Davide and Pierpoalo had the idea for that beautiful ending part.
The arrangements for all the songs, instead, have been rewritten and every single instrument has been replayed from scratch. We saved all that was good in my old arrangements, but completely got rid and rearranged all the parts that we thought wasn’t good enough. And despite of the struggles between us to save this or trash that, we’re still alive and no blood has been shed.
You also work with two Italian musicians I’m an establish fan of due to their work with various projects including Shining Line and Charming Grace. How did you join up with Pierpaolo Monti and Davide Barbieri?
Oh well, I’m myself a fan of Shining Line, Charming Grace and Wheels of Fire which is the band Davide sings lead vocals on.
First I met Davide, we both are long time Bon Jovi fans and beside Wheels of Fire, Davide also sings in one of the best Bon Jovi tribute bands I’ve ever heard. I’ve met him at one of these shows at a Bon Jovi Club Italia fans meeting. Since then we kept in touch and he had the chance to listen to some of my songs and told me he wanted Pierpaolo to listen too. So we managed to meet all together and given their positive thoughts about my songs, I officially asked them to produce my album.
Has the Room Experience album turned out as you had hoped and originally envisioned when you started writing the album?
Definitely! No album is perfect, and that’s good, so there’s always “room” for improvements, but we’re all very demanding and if it hadn’t turned out the way we wanted, we would still be working on it. Of course there were compromises to accept on both sides, I still regret that I had to get rid of a bridge I loved in “Tomorrows Came”, to say one and Zorro and Dave probably regretted a few times that they accepted to be my producers *laughs* but we always spoke about everything honestly and we never left a doubt unsaid even if it meant to have 20 minutes discussions about the right time for one single kick drum shot.
I can be very stubborn when it comes to arrangement and so is Pierpaolo and Davide but in the end we’ve found a very good balance and enjoyed working together a lot. They have been both fundamental for the album, Davide is a really high class arranger and Pierpaolo has definitely lots of great ideas and a great taste to spot the right musicians to get for a certain sound. In fact, every single musician got the best out of the songs he (or she) had to perform. I have already told you about David, but the same goes for everyone: Amos, Steve, Ivan, Aure all of them. Let me just spend a further word for Nicoletta and Andrea, who are not playing in any major rock band, but delivered awesome performances.
Can you talk to us about a few of the songs on the album? Any meanings or stories behind them that fan’s may be interested to hear?
You don’t know in what kind of trouble you’re getting if you ask me things like this! I could talk for hours about each and every single song of the album. I think this is one of the most charming subjects you can stumble into, when you talk about music and art in general. Yes, there’s a story and a meaning behind every song, but not necessarily the one that lyrics literally tell. And it might not even be the main reason why a song was written. Run to you, for example, was written back in 2007 to help a friend in a project with her 12 years old students, who had to write lyrics, sing and make a video out of the song. They gave me two different 4 chords sequences to work with: one from their music teacher and one from the kids. Well the one from the music teacher was boring, while the one from the kids is almost the same that you can hear in the verse. I also had a lot of input from them sometimes too much at times, about the kind of song, the volume of the snare drum, the length of a note can you change this, can you do that. It was very funny to work having 20 kids to produce on one song. The only problem in the end was that I forgot to write in their key and when we had to record their vocals they had a hard time, because it was too low. Somewhere I still have the song-video with their lyrics and their singing. Anyway that was the reason why it was written, but the meaning behind it is something that goes beyond that, and that is more relating to my own feelings and thoughts. I’ve always thought that a good song should have meanings on different levels, one that the songwriter had in mind and that probably will always be his and only his. And then another thousand different ones, determined by the listeners, according to their own perception of the song.
And you know what? After writing down this answer my mind keeps stumbling on the thought that Run to you, in the end, is just a song for kids!
I always find lyrics very important and music always has a deeper impact if I can relate to it. I have to say I really like many of the lyrics throughout the Room Experience album and it gives the songs deeper meaning and lasting power with me. Are lyrics important to you and do you write from experience or do you approach your lyrics from a third person perspective to create different styles of songs?
Thank you very much for the compliment it’s very appreciated, especially considering that writing lyrics is the part of songwriting that I like least. But since they have to be done, I try to do the best I can. I’d be really happy if I could only sing “Nah Nah Nah” in all of my songs!
But of course they are very important. First of all because of the sound of the words you choose. I strongly believe that singing an “o” instead of an “I” can make the difference on the impact the melody may have.
Also, sometimes i hear songs where sentences are split on different music phrases: I hate to hear that. Otherwise when you listen to the song lyrics takes you in a different direction than music does and the songs have a less meaningful impact. As you correctly said, when lyrics fit, music hits you stronger.
About the meaning of lyrics, all my favourite lyricists have the incredible ability to make you visualize something as it was tight before your eyes, maybe with just one sentence in all the song, one single sentence can make a song great, to me, regardless the overall meaning of the lyrics. But as I said earlier, I think that anyone who listens to a song should be allowed to give a different meaning to the words. Everyone’s life, culture, fears, hopes are different we wear different clothes and it’s unfair to think that my own clothes will fit other’s people perfectly, so I always try to write lyrics that save a bit of indefiniteness.
I write starting from my own experience, but often it can be just the thought of an instant that gets stretched inside my mind till I make a complete movie about it. “Queen of every heart”, for example: I’ve been actually to a few boring parties and damn!!! Not a single time a girl like that has come in. Not alone, at least. But the thought of it happening kept tumbling in my mind, so I made my own movie about a situation like that.
“No signs of summer”, instead, came out on one of those beautiful summer days that make you miss your childhood holidays spent playing in the sun. One of my favourite songs is “Boys of Summer” by Don Henley and I was looking for that kind of bittersweet feeling, even if the subject is different. In my mind “No Signs of summer” is not a song about the end of summer, but about losing our innocence as we grow up. And even if this is one of the lyrics that I feel more personal, it could sound as if it was only a description of a time of the year.
Maybe someone will think I just miss building sandcastles. Who knows!
Obviously as you’re a keyboardist there is a strong and diverse keyboard presence, and there is some unforgettable keyboard moments and riffs that really get stuck in your head. To me Keyboards will always be a crucial part of AOR, who are your keyboard influences and heroes?
Once again, thank you for the compliment but believe me, I’m the keyboardist you would never want to play live with you, Davide played keyboards as well on the cd and some keyboard riffs are sounding great because of his skills, the part after the solo in Shock me, for example, my playing was a lot less lively. My best feature is that I’m very patient when I work on arrangements for song and I pay a lot of attention to details, so when I have to write keyboards parts I spend hours to choose the right sound or try a lot of different breaks and styles. I agree, they are crucial in AOR because they allow you to fill the song with so many different sounds and details, no other instrument allows you to do that. Actually, nowadays with a keyboard and some good samples you could write a complete demo even for a rock song, i use my keyboards to write guitar riffs, bass line, a bit of everything, it’s good to have a feeling of a finished song, before it is played by real musicians with real instruments. Anyway, since I’m not a technically skilled keyboardist (I wish!) My influences are more related to sounds and details that keyboardists are able to deliver. I really have a fetish for sounds. If I have to say a few names I will say David Bryan, Jon Oliva who certainly doesn’t play AOR, but I love the feeling in his piano parts and Jean Michel Jarre, Again not AOR.
You sing on the closing track ‘Only Goodnight’ which is followed by a hidden track which you also sing on? I really love the hidden track can you tell us what it’s called? It’s one of my most played tracks so far!
Yes I also sing on that one. The track is called ‘Something in the wind’ and when you’ll hold the booklet in your hands, if you know where to look, you will also be able to find out which musicians were involved, the lyrics and so on. A little curiosity from the start a different song had been chosen to be the ghost track. “Something in the wind” was written with a different purpose and was a last minute choice. I’m happy to hear you like it; it means it wasn’t a bad choice.
I really enjoy both these final tracks on the album and in particular your emotive vocals which gives the words a more meaningful impact. Do you have any plans to write and record and album with yourself on lead vocals?
Well if Pierpaolo and Davide will accept to produce a whole album with me on vocals, why not? I’d be very happy to, because I love singing my own songs. Singing is actually what i love the most. But, should I ever do something like that, I’d have to choose the songs wisely, my vocal range is not very wide and my kind of voice is not made for all the styles of rock. Unfortunately David is the one that can sing everything, not me. But yeah I would really love to record an album with myself on lead vocals. Let’s see what people will think of Room Experience, first.
We tend to associate David Readman with heavier styles of melodic rock, but it’s great to hear him sing on straight ahead AOR songs, especially as he sounds amazing on them and really adds to the strength of the songs. Are you happy with David’s versions of your songs and did you have to make many tweaks or alterations during the song writing to suit David’s style?
David usually sings heavier stuff, it’s true, but I’ve always loved the warmer side of his voice and that was one of the main reasons why he was on our possible singers list.
You know many singers out there nowadays use the songs to show how good they are, so the song serves them and not the opposite. David, instead, was great in everything, he used his talent to serve the songs and has been very respectful of the melodies, but at the same time did everything in his own style. You can understand why he’s so great, when you notice things like this. We haven’t even made many alterations to the song, beside transposing a few from my key to his, all we did was completing the arrangement after he did the singing in his style, to get the best possible response from music to vocals.
Are there any plans for Room Experience to perform live? Especially here in the UK?
Hopes, more than plans. As now, nothing is set. But the band is there, if there will be chances to play, every one of us will be more than happy to go live and share a stage!
Is there anything else you’d like to add or say to Midlands Rocks readers?
Yes, if you’re still reading, you’re my next hero! Thank you! And of course, keep listening to the music you love and help your less fortunate friends who listen to junk and make them quit while they’re still on time. There’s too much good music out there to waste time with bad ones.